The question of the week for me has been “How was your trip to Africa?” Not an easy one to answer in a few sentences so I will respond briefly. It’s taken me a week of being back to process and I’m still continuing to do so…….
So I’ll start from the beginning….the travel was it’s own element for me….the hours of flying, the drive from Freetown to Mokanji required two doses of dramamine for me but when the vehicle finally stopped…..I forgot about all of that. We received a homecoming welcome even though half of us on the team had never been to the village. They pretty much had a parade for us….there was dancing, singing, as they had a celebration for our group as we arrived and it continued as we walked and they walked us all the way up the hill to the hospital where we would be staying in Mokanji. It was overwhelming to say the least to see their excitement towards people(us) whom most of them had never seen or met. Their gratitude grabbed my heart. From that moment, I never felt afraid or out of place. I felt like we knew each other even though I didn’t know the names of the hundreds of faces looking and smiling at me, children grabbing my hands and not letting go……it all seemed right in that moment.
As I adjusted to the scenery around me, I realized after several days that you just don’t get relief from what you are seeing. It’s all day, everyday and everything begins to look the same. I began to lose track of days not knowing what day it was. When I thought about the people living there, I wondered how they keep track of days as well. Everyday is the same for them for the most part…..everyday is a day of survival, the whole day focuses on getting food, preparing it, washing clothes, and getting water…it takes the whole day just to do these things.
Through the week I had the opportunity to work in the medical clinic, go out on village assessments, and help with the children’s home. I felt frustration seeing the numbers of people with more severe needs who could be easily treated if we were only in America! I felt discouraged learning about the water sources for some of the villages we visited…..streams, water holes, bucket wells. They were washing clothes and bathing in the very water they were drinking. In the midst of frustration and discouragement, I felt hope though knowing that LTLOL has money funded to place wells in some of these villages we were assessing and providing something as simple as clean water is a place to start. The need is so vast that you have to have tunnel vision and just start in one place. We made no promises that they would receive a well but they were still grateful that we were even there…..it gave them hope.
Probably the hardest day for me was the day the orphans were dropped off. The children coming to live in the home were either being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles or people in their village because the child had no mother or father. Children were showing up with the clothes on their back and that was it. A few were afraid and it broke my heart to think what was going through their mind, “where am I” , “who are these people….white people”, “what is happening to me”, it was overwhelming. However, after 24 hours most of them had a adjusted and I realized that they would soon realize this was a good thing. The home is beautiful, they will have the opportunity to be in school, they will be loved and cared for by the house parents, and they will have food and clean water! It truly is hope rising in each of their little lives.
As far as me personally, I learned that I can adapt to the situations around me and I have mastered the art of taking a shower with a bucket! I was reminded that it is my responsibilty to help whether I get on the plane and go or whether I contribute financially right here. The truth is that a smile and a hug works in any language……whether it be across the ocean or across the street. Are the physical needs greater in Africa, of course, but the unviersal need for most humans I would say is to know what love looks like and feels like.
How does this play out in my own life…..towards my immediate family, my friends, my neighbors, in the city of Buffalo, and now towards my friends in Africa……do they know what love looks like and feels like from me and am I doing it well.
We can all do something…….if you aren’t sure where to start check out www.ltlol.com
Thank you to those of you that were a part of my trip, I am grateful for the opportunity to have made new friends there….you were a part of the many smiles and hugs given and received.
2012 Team Member